Friday, October 9, 2015

Secrets of Sloane House by Shelley Gray

One woman’s search for the truth of her sister’s disappearance leads her to deceit and danger in 1893 Chicago.
        Rosalind Perry has left her family’s rural farm in Wisconsin to work as a housemaid at Sloane House, one of the most elegant mansions in Gilded Age Chicago. However, Rosalind is not there just to earn a living and support her family—she’s at Sloane House determined to discover the truth about her sister’s mysterious disappearance.
        Reid Armstrong is the handsome heir to a silver fortune. However, his family is on the periphery of Chicago’s elite because their wealth comes from “new money” obtained from successful mining. Marriage to Veronica Sloane would secure his family’s position in society—the lifelong dream of his ailing father.
        When Reid begins to realize the Rosalind’s life may be in danger, he stops thinking of marriage prospects and concentrates on helping Rosalind. Dark things are afoot in Chicago and, he fears, in Sloane House. If he’s not vigilant, Rosalind could pay the price.

        Secrets of Sloane House is the first book in Shelley Gray’s new Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series. I have always been a fan of Shelley’s Amish novels and mysteries—which she publishes under the name Shelley Shepard Gray—so I got excited when I found out she was writing a historical mystery series. And now that I have read both the first and the second books in the series, I have to say, I was not disappointed. Secrets of Sloane House is full of just enough intrigue, romance, and mystery to leave you wanting more, all the while wrapping up the story in ways you never in a million years thought possible. Even now that I know the ending, I am still shocked by the reality of what happened to Miranda. Although I look back now and see a few signs that could have pointed to the truth, I can still say with certainty that I never saw that ending coming. Ever.
        Rosalind Perry is by far one of my favorite heroines, possibly because she is so easy to relate to. Completely focused on discovering the truth about her sister, Rosalind pushes herself into her work and her search, all the while believing the lies society tells her: that she is not, and never will be, good enough for anyone. As she continues to come up with dead end after dead end, it becomes even harder for Rosalind to keep her head up. Obviously, she’s not even good enough to find her sister. Her family is going to be so disappointed in her, as she’s running out of chances and time, and she has yet to find anything of worth when it comes to her search for her sister. The way she puts herself down for things that are not true or beyond her control have no merit, but they don’t have to. So many of us believe lies just like those, and all because it seems so obvious, at least to us, that they are true. That is what makes Rosalind so relatable, and makes Reid so great.
        Each and every time he becomes aware of Rosalind’s view of herself, Reid does everything in his power to dispel those rumors she is believing about herself. He sees her as the beautiful, smart, caring woman that she is, and he is never too busy to tell her so. Let me just make something clear for a moment: never once as I read this novel did I find Reid to be so self-absorbed as he appears in the description. It didn’t take him very long at all to give up on the ‘must marry a lady of society’ idea, he just wanted to please his parents, especially his ailing father. If he hadn’t felt that it was his duty to make a good match, that idea would have been thrown out the door ages ago. And even while he still knew that his parents wanted that for him, he continued to help—and fall for—Rosalind. Honestly, I think, he never really truly felt guilty about it, because she was just that perfect for him.
        Then there is the mystery aspect of this novel. Shelley intertwines everything PERFECTLY. I could not imagine anyone doing it better. There are just enough hints that when you look back you see them but as you read you are still just as in the dark as before, everything wraps up—there are no loose ends hanging—and the reasons for the crime are all perfectly justifiable, for the criminal anyway. They do make sense and aren’t just flimsy excuses, which is a good thing because I hate it when the reasons for the crimes in mysteries don’t make any sense or aren’t even real motivations. That was not the case with this book, thank goodness, which made this such a wonderful mystery. And the romance…oh goodness, give me a moment while I recover from my swoon. Reid is amazing. Have I said that already? Because he is. And he and Rosalind make the absolute perfect pair. Despite the fact that society claims they are all wrong for each other, they leap over the boundaries placed before them to find a love that is both touching and inspiring, leading them to their very own happily ever after.
        Obviously, I really enjoyed this book. Loved it, in fact. So it must be apparent that I cannot help but give it all five bookshelves. It was spectacular. And now it has me looking forward to the final book in the series (I told you I’ve already read the second book, haven’t I? I couldn’t help myself. I picked it up just seconds after putting this one down. And if you think I loved this novel, just wait until you hear my thoughts on that one). This series (or what I’ve read of it) is by far one of the best historical mystery series I have ever read, which leaves me with no choice but to say, go read these books! I promise you won’t regret it!
        Happy reading!

All credit for the italicized synopsis goes to Shelley Gray and Liftuse Publishing Group. 

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